Keetmanshoop — Namibian First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba has condemned all practices within the traditional, religious and social environment that are detrimental to the well-being and general development of the African child.
In her statement read by Councillor Jan Schotlz during the commemoration of the Day of the Africa Child held at the J Stephanus Stadium last Friday, Pohamba specifically singled out traditional circumcision as being harmful to children. She said that such social and cultural practices female genital mutilation, infanticide, child labour and forced marriages. "It is about time we examined our positions when it comes to these harmful social practices affecting our children," she said and added that a cursory look at the situation painted a picture that suggested that "we all have thrown [up] our hands in despair, giving an aura of morality to practitioners and believers of these practices."
Madam Pohamba said Namibia has made considerable progress over the years through efforts to ensure that the country remained, to a large extent, a safe haven for children with the introduction of policies and laws protecting children. "Many people in the world have specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs, some of which are beneficial to all members, while others are harmful to specific groups, in many cases children and women," she said.
She further said there is a growing problem of children subjected to all forms of harmful practices, such as child labour and exploitation; traditional male circumcision of young boys, but also social practices such as neglect, baby dumping, sexual abuse, as well as the phenomena of sugar daddies and sugar mommies. "Culture is our pride, it defines who we are, and it is embedded in our being and passed on from generation to generation. Today we are not calling for culture to be done away with, but for all of us to relook some of these practices and to make a decision: is it beneficial or is it harmful. If we find that it is harmful, then I'm calling on all of us today to make a serious effort to do away with these harmful cultural practices," she said
"You are our hope for a better tomorrow. I want to call on all of you, to grab all opportunities at your disposal to equip yourself with knowledge, to study hard, and know where you can report incidents of harmful social and cultural practices and all other forms of violence against children," she emphasised. Madam Pohamba also used the opportunity to call on parents, teachers, traditional leaders and community leaders to create safe homes, schools and communities for all children.
"The phenomena of harmful social and cultural practices are very disturbing and destructive for our children's development. However, it is sad to say that these practices are performed by people known and trusted by the children. Governments should partner with parents to help them meet their crucial childrearing responsibilities as stipulated in article 20 of the African Charter, it is "our collective responsibility," she said.
She further advised all agencies and individuals working with children, to raise resilient children who will make good citizens and who will be excellent parents. In order for children to thrive, childhood needs to be a national and global priority. The Day of the African Child is marked on June 16 each year to honour the memory of schoolchildren killed and the courage of all those who marched in 1976 during a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa.
On that day, an estimated 10 000 schoolchildren gathered at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto to protest against an apartheid-inspired education system in that country and to demand instruction in their own languages instead of Afrikaans. The unarmed learners were, however, brutally attacked by the police and in the process an estimated 176 children lost their lives while thousands of them got wounded what has come to be known throughout the world as the "Soweto Uprising."
Since 1991, the African Union and its partners have set aside this day to recall this incident in the history of the African child, a day when all people collectively reflect on the day-to-day realities that confront the African child.